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News and analysis
- UK Covid-19 deaths rose by 563 yesterday, it emerged, by far the largest one-day rise. The total is now 2,352. But there are still, as of today, no reports of hospitals being overwhelmed – not even in London.
- Just 2,000 out of 500,000 frontline staff in NHS England have been tested for coronavirus, No. 10 has said.
- NHS staff may not get the protective equipment they need for another two weeks, Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, has said.
- US government scientists have said their aim is to keep Covid-19 deaths in America under 240,000. The UK figure now looks likely to stay below 20,000.
- Rationing is easing: UK supermarkets – including Waitrose, Asda and Morrisons – are lifting restrictions.
- A 13-year-old Londoner has become Britain’s youngest Covid-19 fatality. His parents said he had no underlying health conditions.
- A UK watchdog has warned that fake coronavirus test kits are in circulation. A church in Camberwell has been selling £91 ‘protection’ kits made of oil and red string.
- The first person arrested on the railways for breaching coronavirus restrictions has been fined £660 for ‘loitering between platforms’ at Newcastle Central station.
The NHS is increasing its ventilator stock, with extra machines due to arrive this weekend. As of today, no hospital has reported being over capacity, not even in London. But those who work in hospitals are still desperate for more protective kit (as Robert Peston has been describing). Robert Jenrick, the Communities Secretary, today admitted that it will be some time before things are working properly. The military is being asked to ‘get the stocks out in a more organised and sustainable way’, adding that the ‘model should be in place in the next fortnight’. The government is seeking 3.5 million antibody tests – to learn if a person has already contracted the virus – but NHS chiefs fear the tech is still unproven and that the rollout of these tests could be at least two weeks away. Some American universities have started importing tests, to trial their theories of how far the virus has spread.
In a striking change of tone, Donald Trump has warned that Covid-19 could claim hundreds of thousands of lives. ‘We lose more here, potentially, than you lose in world wars,’ he said in his daily press briefing.
Covid-19 in Data
A White House presentation about options to ‘flatten the curve’.
Lockdown slows coronavirus spread
The lockdown could have driven coronavirus’s reproduction number – the number of people who catch the disease from each infected person – from 2.6 to 0.62, researchers the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimate. ‘Our estimates are not to be read as “job done”. Rather, they should be used as motivation for us all to keep following UK government instructions. It’s imperative we don’t take our foot off the pedal,’ they say.
An Oxford team says manual contact tracing for Covid-19 infection won’t work – but a smartphone app warning people if they have been in contact with an infected person might
A team from Oxford University has modelled the spread of Sars-CoV-2, the virus which causes Covid-19, and concluded that it has spread too fast to be contained by manual contact-tracing – a method which involves an infected person trying to remember with whom they have been in contact, used in Britain and other countries in the early days of the epidemic. They conclude, however, that it could potentially be contained through a contract-tracing app, which tracked people via their mobile phones and sent a warning to those who had come into close contact with someone suffering from the virus. One problem with manual contact-tracing, they conclude, is that between half and three quarters of cases of Covid-19 are spread via pre-symptomatic individuals. It is especially hard for people to remember who they were in contact with several days prior to their developing symptoms. The research is reported in Science magazine
Imperial College team estimates true mortality rate for Covid-19 in China at 0.66 per cent, lower than previous estimates
Previous work by Professor Neil Ferguson in February – using early data from China – put the infection fatality rate at 0.9 per cent. But the new work from epidemiologists at Imperial College London takes more up-to-date data from China, and concludes that the rate is a little lower than this: 0.66 per cent. In contrast to the case fatality rate – which is a simple ratio of deaths to confirmed cases – the infection fatality rate takes into account estimates for the number of people who have been infected with the disease but who have not been recorded in official statistics, either because their symptoms were so mild that they did not seek medical attention or because they had no symptoms at all. The research is published in the Lancet.
- George Osborne has said that the Evening Standard has ‘taken the hard decision to furlough some staff and cut pay’. News Corp Australia has suspended printing of 60 local newspapers, due to a rapid decline in advertising.
- Denmark’s central bank has predicted that the economy could contract by up 10 per cent this year.
- The IMF has been approached by 85 countries for financial support, almost twice the number that required assistance after the 2008 financial crisis.
- The UK PMI fell by four points to 47.8 in March, its lowest since 2012. IHS Markit Director Rob Dobson says the slump was largely caused by ‘disruptions to production, demand and supply chains at UK manufacturers’.
- Banks including Lloyds, HSBC and Barclays have said they will not pay any dividends this year to protect capital. The Bank of England has also told them to stop cash bonuses to senior staff.
- The minimum wage for those aged 25 and over rose by 6.2 per cent today, from £8.21 to £8.72. But the Low Pay Commission has cast doubt on the Tories’ pledge to lift the minimum wage to two-thirds of median earnings, or £10.50 an hour, by 2024, saying coronavirus may mean it applies the ‘emergency brake’ and limits future rises.
‘Go home. Your journey is not essential.’
Photo of the day
- Germany has recorded 149 more Covid-related deaths, its highest one day rise. Its total now stands at 732 and its case mortality rate 0.9 per cent.
- Russia has launched an app to track those ordered to stay at home. Residents in Moscow are only allowed to leave their house to buy food or medicine, go to hospital, walk their dog or empty their bins.
- Vladimir Putin has sent a cargo plane with medical equipment and masks to the US which Trump described as ‘very nice’.
- Saudi Arabia has told an estimated 2.5 million Muslims to delay their planned Hajj pilgrimage until the virus has subsided.
More from The Spectator
How deadly is the coronavirus? It’s still far from clear – Dr John Lee
Islamists are frustrating Pakistan’s fight with coronavirus – Kunwar Khuldune Shahid
The SNP may have overreached by planning to suspend jury trials – Stephen Daisley
The heartbreaking decisions doctors are preparing to face – Robert Peston